An inclusive history curriculum instils a sense of pride to be Malaysians

Ranjit Singh Malhi

Modified 30 Jul 2019, 5:25 am

I salute our Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah, for reiterating that the Malay rulers should not be linked only to the Malays and Islam.

His Majesty emphasised the need “to respect other religions and races.” Equally inspiring was the proud admission by Raja Permaisuri Agong, Tunku Hajah Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah about her Chinese lineage which can be traced back to China’s Guangdong Province. These views of the royalty are most relevant both to the creation of a truly united Malaysia and the need to be proud of our nation’s heritage.

Both our beloved Yang di-Pertuan Agong and Raja Permaisuri Agong have inspired me to further champion the writing of an inclusive history of Malaysia which is factually accurate, unbiased, balanced and reflects current scholarship. We must not deny or suppress the reality of our rich multi-religious and multi-cultural heritage.

We must never omit parts of our history or tell half-truths to glorify a particular religion or ethnic group. Additionally, we must acknowledge the significant roles played by the various ethnic groups in the development of our beloved nation. Hence, our young must be told the true story of the origins and development of Malaysia, and in that process, inculcate in them a true sense of belonging and loyalty to the nation.

I have been championing and writing about the need to ensure factual accuracy and a balanced account of our nation’s history since 1990. To date, I have not only pointed out more than one hundred factual errors in our history textbooks since 1989 but also factual contradictions within the textbooks for different forms. As a taxpayer and a responsible citizen of Malaysia, I humbly request the Ministry of Education (MoE) to answer the following five questions:

  1. How are the writers of our history textbooks selected? Is the selection based on meritocracy and open tender or are the writers appointed by the MoE based upon its own criteria?
  2. Why are all the ten authors of the current Form 1-3 history textbooks chosen from one ethnic group? Is it the intention of the MoE for our young to learn the nation’s history as viewed through the lens of one ethnic group?
  3. What are the criteria for selecting consulting experts (pakar rujuk) for the history textbooks? Are they truly competent and meticulous? Are all of the historians of proven repute? Have they ever written books related to Malaysian history?
  4. What measures have been taken by Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (publisher of the school history textbooks) to ensure grammatical and spelling accuracy, besides the accuracy of photographs and maps? In this regard, one is reminded of the major blunder in the Standard Six History textbook (2015) wherein a map of Peninsular Malaysia erroneously showed the location of Melaka in the East Coast region.
  5. Finally, the MoE must explain as to why our history textbooks are still plagued with factual and typographical errors despite having all kinds of experts and panels, including consulting experts on the history curriculum and history textbooks, panel of academics, and a quality improvement committee.

History is a compulsory subject in our schools. Thus, I look forward to a prompt and honest response from the MoE to the five questions I have posed in our noble quest to ensure that young Malaysians are taught the true history of the nation.

Indeed, the MoE needs to be reminded that one of the goals of history education in our schools is “to cultivate the spirit of loyalty towards the nation and to instil a sense of pride to be Malaysians.”

How is this possible if our history textbooks continue to omit the significant contributions of the Chinese and Indians in the economic development of our nation?

May the great architect of the universe grant our leaders the courage and wisdom to do what is right to create a truly united and progressive Malaysia! This will be the subject of the next article.

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